One type of Thai food is rarely seen outside of Thailand, and that is the chili dip. Even tourists to Thailand rarely get exposed to all its variety. In many regions, and especially in the North, 'dips' of various sorts are a quite common snack or appetizer. These dips generally use raw chilies as their main ingredient, and then add shallots, garlic and other herbs and spices. The dips typically use little, if any, meat.
Chiang Mai Chili Dip on sale in a market, with fried pork skins to go with it.
The chilli dips are among the few 'authentic' Thai dishes that can be appropriately described as an appetizer. Thais do not generally adhere to any strict rules of order for a meal. Dishes are bought to the table as soon as they are cooked, without any concept about what should come first or last. Dishes that westerners may call a soup or a salad are all part of a single course that may be eaten in any order.
Dips may be eaten with a meal, but more often they are taken as an appetizer before a meal, or perhaps as a late night snack with drinks. The dips are generally eaten with fresh vegetables such as sliced aubergines, yard-long beans or Chinese cabbage. One particular favourite 'dipper' in Chiang Mai is deep fried pork skins.